Learning language is a remarkable feat. Most children are competent speakers within three years of being born and they seem to achieve this by powerful general learning mechanisms along with a desire to communicate.

Communication with other people is key for word learning. The context of learning then provides the infant with rich cues to support them in understanding the meaning of these new words.

Social development and language development are intimately linked because social interaction supports both cognitive development, language learning and the opportunity to make shared meaning. To do this, parents usually talk to babies about things that are happening in front of them as well as playing games with toys and making up stories.

In the first year of life, parents use a special register in which to speak to babies called “motherese” which exaggerates and emphasises word and phrase boundaries.

Music and language

Music and language enable us to communicate through sound and both are closely related during development. In the early stages of life, babies perceive in their environment without necessarily differentiating between sound as music or language, only becoming more diversified at the later stages of development.

Alice was involved in a three-year speech, language and communication project between 2015-2018, working in 5 nurseries across north Westminster. Her role was to examine the impact of a Creative Futures music, language and play intervention for children aged between 2 and 4 years.

The project was set-up for nursery practitioners to deliver a special model of free play into structured music/language circle time, facilitated by a speech language therapist and a music teacher. The project was highly impactful; you can read the evaluation here.

Since the end of this project in 2018, Alice has set up a smaller version with nursery practitioners in Kentish Town and has begun to trial new data collection methods including the use of LENA technology, to help capture a more complete evidence base.